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by Neville Kennard, veteran preaching and practising capitalist

Sometimes when I am waiting in a queue I ponder, “What would I pay to not be waiting here, but to be in a fast lane?”

This can happen at traffic lights, doctors’ waiting rooms, airport check-in, airport security and wherever else the government is running things.

At airline check-ins, the long queue is mostly at the economy class counters, as business and first class give their premium-paying customers the benefit of some queue-jumping. At doctors’ waiting rooms, the waiting-time is a price we pay for “free” healthcare. At traffic lights, the queue-time is the price we pay for “free” roads.

Queues at counters of shops don’t persist for long. The shop owner sees the queue, which tells him that his product is popular, or underpriced, and he does something about it: he may put on another employee, or he may increase the price. Or a competitor opens up. Either way the queuing problem, the queuing-price (the time-price that the queuers pay), gets resolved. The business opportunity presented by the queue is grabbed by an entrepreneur.

With government-provided “free” services, the price mechanism is not allowed to work. The costly (in time) and inefficient government mechanism is to offer “free” stuff and ration the supply with a hidden price — of time in queue. Local councils have the “customers” (they don’t call them this — they may call them “clients,” but often see them as nuisances) waiting for approvals on development and buildings applications. This is very expensive and adds to construction costs and development costs.

So, how to take advantage of the business opportunity presented when there is a government-induced queue?

One way is corruption. Pay a fee (bribe?) to jump the queue. It may be very economic to pay a “facilitation fee” — over the counter or under the counter. Obviously, the facilitation fee could be formalised and legalised allowing urgent and important applications to be fast-tracked. There are many other ways for government departments to speed up the queuing time, and the very best, of course, is to eliminate the regulation that courses the queue in the first place. The next best is to privatise the approval service so that “authorised approvers” do it for profit.

The tragedy of the commons remains a relevant concept, and as governments take control of more and more, of our lives, our jobs, the economy, there are more and more “commons” and likely to be more and more queues, and increasing temptations for corruption/facilitation fees.

Queuing is a price we pay. We may not see our waiting time, our queuing, as part of the price, but it is. It is a cost (in time and inconvenience) we pay. In free markets, queues get resolved pretty quickly. In government services they don’t, and people wait, for example with “free” healthcare, sometimes for months or years, for their treatment — a price they must pay for this “free” or subsidised service.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Welcome from Neville Kennard
  2. Think Tanks Don't Work
  3. "Market Failure": Just what the government ordered!
  4. The Tragedy of the Tax Pool Commons
  5. Corporate Welfare
  6. Citizenship for Sale?
  7. I Don't Vote
  8. Voting: Right or Privilege?
  9. Stockholm Syndrome and our Love-Hate Relationship with Government
  10. Civil Disobedience: The Rules of Engagement
  11. Should Respect for Law Extend to Bad Laws?
  12. Jaywalking as a Demonstration of Individuality
  13. Government Likes War
  14. Collusion is Our Right
  15. Why Not the Drug Olympics?
  16. Unconventional Wisdom
  17. Tiger Farming: An Alternative to Extinction
  18. Looking Backwards: Mont Pelerin Society Conference, Sydney, 2010
  19. Tax Avoidance is a Patriotic Duty
  20. Kennard Writes to IPA Review Editor
  21. Genocide by Welfare: A Tragedy from the Aboriginal Welfare Industry
  22. Separating Sport and State
  23. Your Home is Not an Investment
  24. Dick Smith, Celebrity Philanthropist
  25. A Libertarian's New Year's Resolution
  26. Extend Politicians' Holidays to Create Prosperity
  27. Entrepreneurs are Disruptive, and Bureaucrats Hate It
  28. What is a good Australian?
  29. Governments Like Employment But Hate Employers
  30. The Market Failure Industry
  31. Neville Kennard: The Tax Avoidance Imperative
  32. Wot if ...?
  33. The Tribal Chief and the Witch Doctor
  34. The Tannehills
  35. Democracy versus Property Rights and Prosperity
  36. Government Doesn't Work, and That's the Way They Like It
  37. Minarchy vs Anarchy
  38. Euthanasia and Self-Ownership
  39. The Right Policies to Fix a Depression
  40. Is Howard Our Best PM?
  41. Tax Producers vs Tax Consumers
  42. Where There's a Queue, There's a Business Opportunity
  43. Authoritarian Freedom
  44. Why Classical Liberals Should Debate Anarchocapitalists
  45. The Tyranny of the Majority
  46. If you could choose to whom you paid your tax
  47. Business Should Exploit Boat People
  48. The Immorality of Trade Unions
  49. "America" vs "The United States"
  50. Sweet Anarchy
  51. The Illusion of "Job Creation"
  52. Gold Is Money
  53. Guilty Capitalists
  54. Bureauphobia
  55. Prosperity vs Growth
  56. Capitalism vs Democracy
  57. More people = More fun
  58. Self-Ownership - the very idea!
  59. Government will murder Neville Kennard if he doesn't back away
  60. The Australian Dollar Has Been Cowardly and Criminally Devalued, Harming the Poor Particularly
  61. Is Taxation Theft and Government a Tax Cheat?
  62. My Journey to Anarchy:
    From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
  63. Government Needs Bad Guys –
    that's why they like wars
  64. What Is Obscene?
  65. Traffic Economics
  66. Wayne Swan stands on the shoulders of other intellectual pygmies
  67. Neville Kennard Obituary
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